(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Israel's political and military leadership are coming under heavy criticism on Friday from residents in the south and former security officials who say that their eagerness to declare an end to the Gaza operation invited Hamas to resume its rocket barrages on the western Negev just before the expiration of the 72-hour truce.
Yuval Diskin, the former director of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) who has emerged as a vocal critic of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's policies, took to Twitter on Friday, questioning the top military and civilian brass for its conduct during this past week.
"I'm still trying and failing to understand why the IDF chief of staff and the GOC Southern Command hastened to urge the residents of the Gaza border towns to return to their homes even before the end of the 72-hour cease-fire," Diskin tweeted on Friday.
In another tweet, the former Shin Bet chief asks: "Why did we have to announce and demonstrate to Hamas that the operation ended from our point of view even before the cease-fire took hold? Obviously, this invited them to embarrass us this morning."
After a month of combat and with no calm in the south to show for it, the political mood is beginning to shift. While Netanyahu and the government enjoyed broad support during Operation Protective Edge, there is growing anger among Israelis in the south over the fact that promises the security situation would improve have gone unmet.
The mayor of the rocket-battered town of Sderot unleashed a tirade against Ya'alon on Friday, just hours after Palestinians in Gaza resumed bombarding the western Negev with rockets and mortars.
Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi told Israel Radio on Friday that Ya'alon proved to be "a resounding failure in restoring security for Israel's citizens."
"Hamas doesn't feel that it has been defeated, and it has no fear of the IDF," he said. "It also is not deterred by the IDF."
The Sderot mayor said that the withdrawal of Israeli ground forces from the Gaza Strip sent the wrong message to Hamas.
"The enemy interpreted the IDF's leaving the Gaza Strip as a move that wreaks of cowardice," said Davidi, who is a member of the Bayit Yehudi party.